Harry Nilsson Sings “Turn On Your Radio”

Harry_Nilsson_Son_of_SchmilssonListen to this track by golden-throated singer-songwriter and soon-to-be Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Harry Nilsson. It’s “Turn On Your Radio”, a deep-cut from his 1972 album Son of Schmilsson. The record is a self-consciously-titled follow-up to his Nilsson Schmilsson album, which is his biggest selling record to date.

By 1972, Nilsson had scored a number of successes, with seven records behind him, songs on mainstream movie soundtracks, and songs of his covered by other artists. Also, Nilsson had made a lot of friends by then, and had won a number of celebrity fans too, some of whom helped him realize his musical goals during the sessions. This included two Beatles — Ringo Starr (credited as “Ritchie Snare”) on drums, and George Harrison playing his signature slide guitar. Later on of course, he’d have another Beatle in his inner circle; John Lennon, who helped Nilsson drink a lot of Brandy Alexanders at the Troubadour Club. But, that’s another story!

Beyond that, this song illustrates the magnitude of Nilsson’s talent by then. He was able to strike a balance that few songwriters were able to do, between sumptuousness and simplicity. Lyrically too, this song seems to hit two chords at the same time. Read more

Harry Nilsson Sings “One”

Harry Nilsson Aerial Ballet Listen to this track by lyrical singer-songwriter who had Beatles for fans Harry Nilsson. It’s “One”, a song taken from his 1968 record Aerial Ballet, his second albumThe song would be covered and become better known by Three Dog Night in the next decade. It would later appear in another form as covered by Aimee Mann for the soundtrack for the film Magnolia. That’s just a start to the list of those who would cover the song over a span of years.

The tune’s bright and cheery keyboard line hides an undercurrent of melancholy even musically speaking before the lyrics kick in to reinforce the themes of isolation and distance. You’ll notice that descending chordal motif that would also be the hallmark of another songwriter, John Lennon.

Lennon was an early fan of Nilsson’s, as were the other Beatles. This may be because like them, Nilsson wrote catchy tunes that held incredible dimension when viewed from different angles. This is one of the best examples of that quality.

Maybe this knack of Nilsson’s came from his background in singing jingles, while he wasn’t holding down a fairly late-in-the-day job as a bank clerk even after his first album hit the charts in 1967. Read more